Over the past 3 years, I’ve built some incredible collaborative relationships with teachers at my school incorporating technology, information literacy, and great literature. However, when I look at the school as a whole, there are still many teachers who are hesitant or unsure of how to dip their feet into the waters of using technology for student product creation. I wanted to support the teachers by offering them a whirlwind tour of what I felt were the most likely technologies that they might explore with students during the year: Photo Story, Glogster, Animoto, Wordle, Tagxedo, and Audacity. I invited some of the teachers who I have collaborated with to be the leaders of 4 different sessions that all teachers rotated through.
Before the professional learning session, the lead teachers and I sat down to plan. We each voiced our preferences about which technology we would share and what format we would use. In the end, we decided that at each of our sessions we would show a final product so that teachers saw one possibility upfront before being bogged down by how the technology worked. Then, we would walk through some of the basics of the technology and give teachers time to explore. Finally, we wanted teachers to have a chance to brainstorm how the technology might be used in their units of instruction during the year. I created a simple handout that was emailed to all teachers in advance of the professional learning session so that they could easily access the links we would use as well as have electronic notes that they could refer back to after the session or add-to during the session.
My principal allotted a 90-minute afterschool professional learning block, and we held the sessions in adjacent teacher classrooms for minimal transitions. Each session was a fast and furious 20-minute block. We grouped teachers by grade levels: k-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, and resource teachers. All teachers brought their own laptops and we provided any other technology needed such as digital microphones and webcams for the exploration phase.
As usual, some surprising things happened:
- Most teachers were unfamiliar with the technologies that we explored
- Teachers voiced their worries about clicking on the wrong thing or not knowing how to answer a student’s question, which surfaced a great conversation about how we don’t need to have all the answers. We need to provide the space and tools for students to create and then we work as a community of collaborators to support one another. I’ve had other students answer many questions for other students rather than all of the answers coming from me.
- Even though teachers were overwhelmed with the beginning of school, they were buzzing with ideas and energy during the sessions
- Several teachers approached me as soon as the sessions were over to talk about collaborating on projects
- People found ways to use the technologies in their everyday tasks. For example, my own paraprofessional has to do our daily email announcements. She is going to highlight all of the announcements and paste them into either Wordle or Tagxedo and use that as an image at the top of the announcement to serve as a preview of some of the words people will see in the announcements.
I am so thankful to the supportive group of teacher leaders who helped me jump-start technology this year. I feel like this session was a starting point for thinking about how technology can and should become a part of each grade level’s instruction. Now as I talk with teachers about projects they will have a base of information to think about final products that students might create. How have you been proactive in jump-starting technology use and collaboration in your school?
David C. Barrow Elementary